It has been a very busy week in the motoring world. Across the pond, the great and the good of the industry have been gathering at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance soaking up the California sun in the presence of supercar royalty, including such giants as the Bugatti Veyron, SRT Viper and McLaren MP4-12C. Meanwhile, back here on planet earth where we don’t have foie gras for dinner and caviar for breakfast, big news has been filtering through to Inside Lane of the more sensible variety.
Since its introduction in 2007, the Auris has been a real winner for Toyota, quite rightly staking its claim as one of the big fish in the shark infested waters of the small family hatchback arena. As with all the established big hitters, the Auris has had to evolve in order to keep pace with its rivals so for 2013 Toyota have announced a big refresh for their Focus challenger.
The original Auris Hybrid, released in 2010, had the dubious honour of picking up the baton from the Prius, which initially kicked off Toyota’s hybrid revolution, and offering that technology to a much wider market. The 2013 model signals the next chapter in that story, entering a world where hybrid technology has become far less of novelty, by offering several improvements in efficiency to its Hybrid Synergy Drive system. In amongst all this talk of hybrid power, we must not forget that the new Auris will also be available with the option of a 1.4-litre diesel or 1.33/1.6-litre petrol engine. However, the emphasis on green power here is deliberate: Toyota say that they fully expect to sell an equal one-third share of hybrid models compared with diesel and petrol variants. Proof, if needed, that the seismic shift in power on our roads is gathering pace.
Elsewhere, Toyota have lowered the ride height and driving position on the new Auris and the car is noticeably squatter than the outgoing model. Steering and suspension have both been revised which should provide a more responsive feel on the road.
The exterior has been completely re-designed, with a lower front end contributing to better aerodynamics and in turn improved handling, stability and fuel consumption. Still, the look is largely functional and won’t be turning heads anytime soon. The option of a piano black finish for the B-pillars doesn’t exactly set the heart racing but the angular rear with its wider opening tailgate is at least a little more daring in the design department. Inside, the 2013 Auris will be slightly more spacious and on higher spec models the dashboard will come with leather trim, but the real wow factor comes courtesy of Toyota’s Skyview panoramic roof, one of the largest in the segment. Despite all this, it is hard to shake off the niggling feeling that the new Auris just lacks some of that Focus and Golf panache.
The 2013 Auris will take its European bow at the Paris motor show this September. It will be interesting to see if, having climbed the greasy pole, Toyota can continue to punch its weight in such a cut-and-thrust area of the market.